The Big Girl Chronicles: Mental Health Awareness Month 2013
A lot of exciting things happen in the month of May. High School and College Seniors are preparing for graduation. Families prepare for summer vacations. Cinco de Mayo. In the midst of such excitement, there’s also an observance that often times carries with it a quiet stigma. That observance is Mental Health Awareness Month. Over 20 million Americans struggle with some form of mental illness in this country. May has been designated as the month to acknowledge and promote mental health.
The stigma associated with mental illness has been a barrier to acceptance and treatment for decades. There is a general misconception that persons who suffer from mental illness are excluded from the liberties and rights that all Americans enjoy daily, and this simply isn’t so. Many people with mental illness continue to lead fulfilling and productive lives. However, whereas that individual could be a valuable resource to model life with mental illness, stigma and undesirable stereotypes keep ignorance in circulation. And ironically so, being that 20 million people should touch upon almost every family in the United States. The DSM V names over 300 disorders considered a form of mental illness. Those range from depression and anxiety disorders to more severe forms such as schizophrenia. And although family history is a factor, absence of family history does not exclude one from developing a mental illness.
There are many things you can do to help end the stigma associated with mental illness. First and foremost, if you or someone you know is experiencing something that impedes daily capacity for social functioning, see a doctor or a mental health professional immediately. Whether it’s anxiety, depression or some other concern, you are not alone. Schedule an appointment with a local mental health center to get the answers you need. Early detection and treatment are the single most important factors to continuing to lead a productive life.
Secondly, take action to raise awareness and increase acceptance of people with mental illness. Join support groups and attend events that assist with research of mental illness. As with any other illness, funding is a very necessary part of sustaining adequate resources and developing medicines that could prolong or sustain quality of life.
Businesses and employers can be more sensitive to the special needs of those with mental illness by creating policies and procedures intended specifically for them. Those policies and procedures could range from protocol for handling employees suspected of experiencing a psychotic episode to something as simple as establishing a companywide mental health day, mental health fair or other observance/activity. (As many policy and procedure manuals as I've read, I've never seen this issue addressed.) All employers should provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that extends professional therapeutic services to its employees. I know this can seem unorthodox. However, with the change in times comes the need for adaptation. When there are numerous reports in the media of tragedy in the streets and workplace, taking all necessary precautions to protect those who could fall victim of someone experiencing a psychotic episode becomes priority number one.
To learn more about mental illness and mental health in general, visit these websites for information:
National Alliance On Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health
If you or someone you know feel that your rights have been violated due to presumption of mental illness, seek the assistance of an attorney. You can contact your state’s Attorney General, the American Civil Liberties Union or other advocate to assist you. You can also check out some movies on the subject. King of California, As Good As It Gets and A Beautiful Mind are a few that provide a Hollywood snapshot of life with mental illness.